Record floods in Death Valley National Park strand 1,000 people

Record rainfall on Friday triggered flash floods in Death Valley National Park that swept away cars, closed all roads and stranded hundreds of visitors and workers.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but about 60 vehicles were buried in mud and debris and about 500 visitors and 500 park workers were stranded in the park, officials said.

The park near the California-Nevada state line received 1.46 inches of rain in the Furnace Creek area. That’s about 75% of what the area normally gets in a year, and more than ever recorded for the entire month of August.

Since 1936, April 15, 1988 was the only day with more rain than 1.47 inches, park officials said.

“Whole trees and boulders were washed down,” said John Sirlin, a photographer with an Arizona-based adventure company who witnessed the flooding as he sat on a boulder on the hillside and tried to photograph lightning as the storm approached.

“The noise from some of the rocks coming down the mountain was just amazing,” he said in a phone interview Friday afternoon.

Road covered in mud after floods.
The National Weather Service reported that all park roads were closed after 1 to 2 inches of rain fell in a short period of time.

Park officials did not immediately respond to requests for an update Friday night.

The storm followed another major flooding event in the park 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas earlier this week. Some roads were closed Monday after being inundated with mud and debris from flash floods that also hit western Nevada and northern Arizona hard.

The rain started around 2 a.m. Friday, according to Sirlin, who lives in Chandler, Arizona and has been visiting the park since 2016.

“It was more extreme than anything I saw there,” said Sirlin, lead guide for Incredible Weather Adventures, which began chasing storms in Minnesota and the Highlands in the 1990s.

Cars that can be destroyed during the flood.
The flash flood warning for Death Valley and the surrounding area expired Friday afternoon.

“Many washes flowed several feet deep. There are rocks that probably cover the road 3 or 4 feet,” he said.

Sirlin said it took him about 6 hours to drive about 35 miles from the park near the Inn at Death Valley.

“There were at least two dozen cars that were smashed and stuck there,” he said, adding that he didn’t see any casualties “or flood rescues.”

During Friday’s rainstorms, “flood water pushed dumpsters into parked cars, causing cars to collide with each other. In addition, many facilities are flooded, including hotel rooms and business offices,” the park’s statement said.

A water system it provides to park residents and offices also failed after a line burst, which has been repaired, the statement said.

A flash flood warning for the park and the surrounding area expired at 12:45 p.m. Friday, but a flood warning remained in effect through the evening, the National Weather Service said. Record floods in Death Valley National Park strand 1,000 people


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